General

5 Questions for HARO Creator Peter Shankman

September 22, 2009

HARO's Peter Shankman: When entering the social revolution, it's better to listen first - then talk (image via bu.edu).
HARO’s Peter Shankman: When entering the social revolution, it’s better to listen first – then talk (image via bu.edu)

Peter Shankman is largely known as the creator of HARO – that’s Help a Reporter Out – a free email distribution list that connects PR practitioners with journalists up to three times each day. Shankman’s project began as a Facebook group in 2007, but since then it has evolved into an 100,000+ strong community of media professionals. 360i recently interviewed Shankman to learn a bit more about HARO (which he describes as a “social media business”) and the social strategy he employs to ensure its continued success.

360i: How did you come up with the idea for HARO?

Shankman: I’ve always been someone who enjoys helping people. It’s good karma. HARO was founded as a Facebook group in October 2007. We outgrew the group because Facebook caps the numbers of members at 1,200. We turned it into a full-fledged Web service in March 2008. Essentially, the premise of HARO began because journalists would call me and ask if I knew anyone for stories they were working on. Over time, this occurred more often, which led to the Facebook group, and eventually, the full-fledge HARO Web site, reporter-source matching service and direct marketing platform for small businesses, which is the iteration of HARO you see now.

360i: You describe HARO as a “social media business” – can you elaborate on this?

Shankman: HARO is a social media company. There is nothing more “social” than news-making and entrepreneurialism. Reporters recognize HARO’s value immediately as a time-saving, efficient way to tap a vast—and captive—community of sources that will give reporters and bloggers what they need when they need it. Small businesses and entrepreneurs typically build their businesses by networking—HARO fits their objectives perfectly and in a very affordable and dynamic manner.

360i: You’ve developed quite the following across various social outlets, no doubt fielding hundreds of personal, direct communications every day. Is there anything you’ve learned from diving into the “social media jungle” that surprised you or made you look at things differently either personally or for your business?

Shankman: With almost every business—small businesses, large businesses, Fortune 500, B2C and B2B—joining the social media revolution, it’s never been more important to listen first, then talk. Stay relevant in your connection’s lives—offer information that helps them, based on what you’ve learned by listening to them. This goes for clients, consumers, customers, even friends.

360i: You came up with a great way to connect people who had a need with those who could help fulfill it, namely via email distribution and more recently via Twitter. How did you determine the best communication channels for your service and are there any learning experiences you derived that you can share?

Shankman: Using the leading social community, Facebook, and one of the most prolific social media messaging platforms, Twitter, to further facilitate the social connections these important groups need and require, is a no-brainer for HARO. The key is getting the information to the people who need it in a way that they prefer, in a timeline that makes sense. For our members, overwhelmingly, those ways include social media outlets, including our thrice daily e-mails, and those timelines are primarily “instantaneous.”

360i: What does the future of HARO hold?

Shankman: Over the next six months, we plan to double the number of journalist subscribers, and triple the number of sources we currently [have]. The elegance of HARO’s profitable business model is its simplicity. The more reporters we work with and sources they can connect with; the more queries HARO delivers, the more connections we make between sources and reporters, the larger the HARO community grows, and the greater the opportunities and ROI is for our advertisers.

HARO Fast Facts:

  • Service Created/Launched: October 2007 (Facebook Group Page); March 2008 (Web site)
  • Total HARO Members: 110,000 (and growing)
  • Reporters: 30,000
  • Sources: 80,000
  • Queries/Month: 3,000
  • Pitches Facilitated: 7,000,000